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Chartbook on Disability in the U.S.

Section 1: Prevalence of Disabilities

1.5. How many people have a mental disorder?

The Epidemiologic Catchment Area Survey (ECA) estimated 28.1%, or 51.3 million people in the community and in institutional settings in the United States had a mental disorder in any given 1-year period. About 2.8% of the adult population (or 5 million people) experience severe mental disorders in a 1-year period.

The 1989 NHIS estimates that 1.8% (3.3 million people) have a serious mental illness. It also found that 78.8% (2.6 million) are currently limited by this serious mental illness.

Technical Notes:

  1. The ECA used diagnoses based on the NIMH Diagnostics Interview Schedule, which is a structured psychiatric diagnostic schedule suitable for administration by lay interviewers in community populations. The NHIS used self-reports of illness.
  2. The ECA was conducted in five sites: New Haven, CT; Durham, NC; Baltimore, MD; St. Louis, MO; and Los Angeles, CA.

More than one in four people has a mental disorder in any year.

Figure 1.5

Source: Bourdon, et al, 1994; National Advisory Mental Health Council, 1993; Barker, et al, 1992

Survey: ECA, 1980-1985; NHIS 1989

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